tv Q A CSPAN December 27, 2009 11:00pm-12:00am EST
we got on the subway and we were sitting there, and this woman comes up to him and says, i am omar wasow's mother. they went on to talk about you in his class. frank mccord. >> i was at stuyvesant high school and i took creative writing with him. he made a big impression. he wrote one of my college recommendations. to this day i think about things he said in that class. stories of him after teaching, going to bars and being a theatrical character. and that is very much what he was like, telling stories and engaging us in unexpected ways. >> can you remember something
you learn about writing or storytelling? >> it is totally not about writing or storytelling. he is to say what is the capital city of albania. he didn't pay any attention to me. i asked the question. and then i looked up with the capital city on the map. and now i know it. anytime i see a reference, i think of him. and that speaks to how he was always jousting with the class, teasing us. in terms of writing and creative writing, at the heart of what he wanted from the students was for them to find their own voice. so he let us write about things that were very intimate and personal, and he was very supportive without having a
conventional approach, you need to have a theme and a subject and a protagonist. it was like, tell us something that moved you. tell us something that was powerful in your life. i remember things i submitted. and again, he was a very encouraging in support of teacher. it was a privilege to have him. >> you come from a german jewish father and african-american mother. tell us about that. >> i interviewed a lot of parents, and these assumed by had -- seem to have potential. [laughter] my parents are who we grew up with, so there is nothing particularly unusual about their backgrounds. but what has been a privilege, less significant in some ways
than the particular race or religion, is the sense of being a child of the civil-rights movement, and their union, and when they got married in 1968, next month it will be 41 years. what is powerful for me is that history and have this real mandate or obligation or debt to live up to the ideals of my mother and my father and my grandparents, why see in a way as freedom fighters. my grandfather had to flee germany, as did my grandmother, and they took great risks to help themselves and family members.
my grandparents on my mother's side in texas and later in washington state, in seattle, integrated neighborhoods, they underwent all sorts of discrimination. and i feel like i carry this mantle of need to be carrying the fight forward. so that is the most powerful part of what their union symbolically means to me. my father was a professor for decades and now is in semiretirement. he is an economist and does work with aid projects, but basically he spends a lot of time importing software on the computer and traveling to mexico. my mom has been an early childhood educator, working with for year-old, five roles, then
went on to teach teachers and become a dean. she has worked for many years in a bilingual school in d.c. helping to grow its program. she is about to retire, also. so i father is excited because he will have a travel partner. >> he used to have dreadlocks and weighed more. -- you used to have dreadlocks and weighed more. we will go back to that. what are you doing now? >> i do some consulting with the work i used to do, but i am pursuing a ph.d. at harvard in a joint program, so i will graduate hopefully in a year and a half with a ph.d. in african- american studies and have a significant body of training and statistics, and in political science. i had spent a dozen years in the
internet industry and the internet -- i continued to be fascinated, but i saw that the key questions i was interested in and around education and promoting justice issues were not going to get answered by the work i was doing in the internet, and i thought the only way i would understand how to get kids get a better educational outcome, to reduce crime and incarceration, was to understand those issues more deeply. going back to school has been a gift to me, to be able to go deep on those topics. i started harvard in 2005. 4.5 years ago. it was a humbling experience. i am an older graduate student. most of my classmates are a decade younger or more. these are kids who have been doing calculus' up until a year ago, and i have not done in 20
years. so there are moments, particularly in the first semester, where i thought if i leave now my parents will still love me, it will be ok. and luckily i found the wherewithal to turn in papers and keep going. but it has been a wonderful experience overall. >> when did you do the 12 lessons on how to use the internet? >> i think that was in 1999 or early 2000. it overlapped a little. and to this day, that is one of the things i am remembered most for, having taught oprah's how to use e-mail. that was an incredible experience.
she was skeptical about the series and did not want to do it at first, and by the end of it, as we were breaking down the set and everyone was exhausted from three intense days of shooting, she was still doing email. she had had a conversion. it made me proud that some of my passion had come across. i had been doing television reporting around technology issues on msn b.c. and a local affiliate in new york, and as a gadget guru i had shown up on the radar of the staff at harpo. i was originally going to just have a big role -- bit role. oprah's took a shining to me, and they began including me in most of the episodes.
i did not work for the obama campaign, but i did give money to the campaign. there are a number of funny personal similarities. his father is an economist, my father is an economist. we are both from kenya. and there is a generational sense of this is somebody who feels like he could be a peer. by american convention, things are arbitrary and substantive, but i get a strong connection.
i was the student body president of my high school, and i thought i would go to politics and have the privilege of working for a congressman, bill gray, the highest ranking black official at the time, the house majority but -- whip. one of the things i took away was i did not want to work in politics. it was too far removed from things i care about, understanding the issues deeply and trying to really study stuff. so coming back to the question, for me, the way i feel i can best make a contribution is to distill complicated issues into a more understandable form. that is where i see my
contribution. >> what do you remember learning the most about? >> a couple of things stood out. i saw a speech by somebody running. a candid it came and spoke to our dorm of 20 students. it stood out with a beautiful speech, but it had been said so many times that the life had been beaten out of it, and i thought that i do not want to be in a career where the things i care about have the life be without them. i want to cherish the work of little more. and it is subtle.
after 13 weeks in different offices, bill gray and i got to go across and meat. i thought, this is exciting, to finally be meeting. they took a photo, i shook his hand, and they assured us out. two minutes, tops. it was an astonishing experience. it felt like a world i did not want to commit my life to. >> you got out of stanford when? >> 1992. individually designed major in race and ethnic relations. a sense of my life and how race and that the city -- ethnicity
play a role. i'm 38 years old. >> how does this will look to you? in terms of the future of this country? >> one of the things most exciting to me about the obama victory is that historically, when there have been major successes as relates to racial equality, they happen in very strange political times. you're talking about the civil war, slavery, the civil-rights movement, which in a way has the assassination of john f. kennedy. it is french politics. and what is encouraging to me about what happened in the last
few years is that obama build a winning majority. he did not win because there was a third-party candidate. there was a broad coalition that came together. i was skeptical of his ability to win because i doubted the capacity of this country to make that coalition. there is clear proof that people are willing to in a very significant way build coalitions as a function of normal politics. it does not have to follow for something extreme like an assassination. >> politicians are looking at the future, saying my grandchildren do not have any of
this because we are in deep financial trouble. how does somebody your age look at this? >> i am enthusiastic about the coalition building. i'm very nervous about the role government. i have been an often or for a dozen years and had great enthusiasm for the markets and small business to reinvent the future, and i look at enormous federal debt, commitment that the federal level, and i get very nervous about the future of the country as it relates to having a sustainable society. we have come to expect lots of benefits, and that is not sustainable given the debt. i also have great optimism about some of the reform movements
that have happened, and one of the things i hope, in my mind, there is a huge majority in the middle that is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and if that voting center is able to exert more information, more influence, i think some of the social conservative extremism around gays and lesbians, and at the same time they work as a check to the massive expansion of government, a check on liberty and freedom. >> a couple years ago, something like blackplanet.com sold for $38 million. does that make you a rich man? >> it does not. by the time we sold it, my share of the company was relatively modest. i'm glad it sold and happy that it got an owner who is committed to growing and and taking it to
a new level -- the real one corp., which has an internet division, acquired it. have a happy ending. it'it still is getting 5 million visitors a month, going strong. >> why did you leave? >> i had been working in social networking for nearly a dozen years. a lot of the questions that interested me, about business, opportunities, to figure out how and entrepreneurship changes the world, that was less pressing to me, and i became a focus on why is there a black- white achievement gap in schools. why have we seen an eightfold increase in incarceration? going back to school was a way
to ask new questions. >> the brooklyn charter school. why did you get involved and that, and what year did you get involved in it? >> i am the child of two educators. when i went into business, it was like i had violated the family business. starting a charter school and being involved in the movement has been a penance to the educators in my family. i am still connected to the trade of education. but was wonderful about charter schools is is a way to marry my
innovation and love of entrepreneurship with education. i started initially being involved with a lobbying group in new york state. a law that passed in 1997 and we began to start a charter school once it was possible. we got rejected twice. the third go round was in 2000, and we got approved, which was thrilling, but we have a planning year we were going to take an extra year to make sure we got a foundation right, 9/11 happened, and there was a suggestion of freezing charters because of budget constraints. so it was like, hey -- we
partners with others who allowed us to bring in real experts who have done it a lot and it is a joint partnership. so that was -- i was president of the board and we started the school. and our principal withdrew, we had a couple of spaces, a couple of principles. has been a really big roller coaster ride. but now, when we started, students on average, 27% were
proficient in math, down 97% of them are. it is 101% solutions. it is having an orderly environment and a lot of time. it is making a significant investment and teacher training. it is making sure that when anybody is not -- anybody doesn't share the mission of we are going to set high standards and make it work hard but give them a lot of support. >> how many teachers? >> it is 650 kids, and the staff is about 50 total. >> what do you not have to follow that every other school has to follow? >> we are required to follow all
of the mainstream laws to expect. we have to have ada compliance, we cannot discriminate based on race. we are subject to a lot of rules and regulations. but the main trade off that charter schools make is we are going to have to give up -- we are going to have to be held more accountable. if we did not meet our outcomes at the end of five years, we get closed. in exchange for accountability, we get more freedom to set the length of our school day, our year. it gives us a lot of room to create more spirit among the staff, to make sure we can invest in a particular curriculum, and we can do all of that as long as kids are doing
well in statewide assessments. at our school, they are not unionized. some charter schools are, so it is not the law is specified. we are required to having a special certification, but we are given more latitude to have new teachers who are not certified. to the real difference is not so much in unionization or not, it is, can we let teachers go when they're not performing, can we let a principal go if they do not show our vision? it is really about making sure that everyone is held accountable. there is not a formal 10-year policy in our school. it is like most jobs. if you do your job well, you'll
be encouraged to come back. if you do not do it well, that is not serving the kids, parents, or public education. >> tell us what a day is like for you on the internet. >> i wake up, pull up e-mailed right on my phone. i use both an old treo, and an iphone, which i have enjoyed a lot. both have their strengths. unless is mission critical, i will kind of see what comes in and wait until i get to my laptop to respond. that is in the living room come and it is also, you have a
wireless network, you check the news, a brush my teeth and have breakfast and you can go up an hour or two at the consumer -- computer before i deal with the rest of the day. i lead a funny life. my primary job is getting a ph.d., but i still do consulting with my old company, blackplanet.com, i still do some media. i do public speaking, and i am grateful for these opportunities to speak to library associations. i do make part of my living from
speaking. >> coupes to hear you speak? >> -- who pays to see you speak? >> is crazy. i find it kind of remarkable. you can kind of talk about how it works with industry associations are with their work. i am a new york times junkie, said that is always the first place i look. i am also fond of google news,
and i have keywords there so i can track things i want to follow. the roof is a great news and opinion site covering african- american issues. that is owned by the "washington post," and i do some work for them, also, so i follow them partly for personal reasons, partly for professional reasons. and throughout the day, not with any particular structure, but helping -- the huffington post, looking at blogs by professors. >> do you go to a conservative website? >> there is one called the next right, a blood, and it feels like people who are here.
people in the 30's and 40's who are simultaneously very committed to this excess of republicans, but to my mind, i am quite moderate, so there is a lot of overlap. republican rhetoric is among the most divisive stories, so going back to the last election, what was most alienating in the election were these moments where palin in particular was talking are real americans, and i think of myself, to going in kenya, a name that may not show up a lot in alaska, and i
wonder, if she'd talking about denying me my american citizenship, some out getting written out of the story? it is almost like a declaration of war. that to me is very provocative, a real challenge. so it is a definition of who was american, who is in the party. without some of the more and elusive and gennady -- identity politics. i was going in kenya, as i mentioned. my parents have a lot of friends who were muslim.
they also saw that omar was a name across the world, so they like that it was international. and have an uncle tom, tomas was a homage to him, my middle name. and waso is a bit confusing, also. my grandfather was adopted by waso, so my father's father was going with another name. waso is an adopted name. >> back to social media, what social media world do you live in? >> one thing that has been most fun to me, i fell in love with social media not in the last 15 years but as a student in junior
high school, using bulletin board systems where you would take a modem and call another enthusiast in your area, and it was like a miniature aol, all text based, very near the stuff. but my roots go back long before the internet. when i came out of college, there was this idea that i could go online, as well. at one point i had 20 phone lines coming in. they thought i was running a phone sex operation. why would you have 20 phone lines? i had 20 modems that were booked up to a computer so people could call into my little miniature aol, called new york online.
this was 1993 to 1999. it was a good run, but it was before the web and internet, on , and so as the web took off, experiences begin to migrate their. in the early days of the web, the web that al gore used, it was the internet would be this information superhighway. and my experience of the internet had been a supper club. it was not a giant set of encyclopedias. so as one person put it, the web was like a neutron bomb, because it took away all the people. it was just information. and what people have been doing for the last decade and a half is laboring tools and technology to bring people back.
so we were part of why it took off. we had things like easy instant messaging, you see chat rooms, ways to post on message boards, all things that are standard now. but for a while it was something you pay $20 a month for, and there was no good version of the web. and you could trace the success at attempts by companies to recreate or experiences that had been there with these technologies but had not been built into this information management medium of the web.
>> help many african-americans? >> about 90% african-american, but like any community, there are diverse members. i went back to school in part not just to go into topics, but to learn to write better. my fantasy is writing a lot. i am teaching. i'm probably involved with something entrepreneurial. i was talking regularly to him
throughout the process, and i think the most impact immediately was that there was enormous amount of stress for him, not only because of all the media attention, i think he was genuinely frustrated by how he had been treated. and following the beer summit, there was a real sense of -- a return to his former self. very jovial. people that do not know him find it hard to understand, he is an incredibly proper guide. said the idea that he was church with disorderly conduct does not add up. so i saw him go from being
unsettled to returning to his relaxed and lively self. even though he has been an incredible supporter of mine in the academy, his work has been on literature, and in a selfish way, i am thrilled he has an interest in criminal justice issues. i am interested in why rates of violence very dramatically. you can have two neighborhoods next to each other and one would have a much higher homicide rate than another. the reason i focus on that is not so much that i'm interested in homicide, but i'm interested in crimes more broadly and affects on race relations, and
by looking at homicide and violence, you have a proxy for that. so you take a place like new york, when i was growing up here, there were 2.5000 myrtles -- murders and 1993. now it is about 500 a year. that is a dramatic drop. i'm trying to understand what led to despite in homicides, but what led to the drop is harder. interdisciplinary work, people are blending different fields, and what is amazing about having this plunge like american studies, the history of science, a lot things come across and it allows people to blend methods
in a way where they answer important questions. for me, race was a central organizing force in a lot of the questions. i am interested not just in criminal justice questions broglie, i'm interested in why we see a disparate impact. and they are organized around a common theme of african- americans, race in america, race in politics. and if you think of any field, you are allowing the academy to mix messages with politics.
sciences. tools get used by political scientists that come from statistics. people use different tools based on questions that they are asking. >> what do you see inside the african-american community about barack obama as president? what impact is it having that people might not see? >> a good friend of mine has been trying to lose weight for years. he related to me after the election, you know what, i can be more disciplined about my eating if we can have a black president. and in the broad sense, this country has shown is capable of
things we did not expect, and we can raise the bar for ourselves, as well. in a lot of different ways, i have had that conversation with friends, and forced a hard conversation intergenerational, where african-americans were either skeptical, were one of my oldest family friends said she did not want to vote for obama because she was worried he would get assassinated. for a younger generation, that is -- it is not conservative, but it is too cautious. she saw martin luther king killed. she saw kennedy assassinated. she did not want that to happen
to obama. and there was a broader intergenerational conversation that he is forcing, which is what is the agenda for the black community, there's been this gap in the civil rights movement, and sort of, really in some ways the question i'm trying to understand is, what happened to the civil-rights movement. what happened to the freedom struggle in this country? obama postelection takes that to the forefront. where is the agenda for dancing the welfare of black americans to die -- today?
>> did you feel about the world with dreadlocks differently? when did you get that of them? >> i had dreadlocks for 19 years. i started growing them in high school. it was my own hair. basically, it is matted hair. if you do not rush it out, it will matc. you let it grow and grow and grow. i had the privilege of having bosses at jobs that saw it as a plus rather than something to get rid of. i thought i might have to cut my hair when i was working for the congressman. i thought they might say, no, no. i was not sure what i would do
if they had said that. but they send it to the office to get my it lemonade it, and i thought once i have that laminated, i am good. but it was not considered so radical. if anything, they were cool with it. fast forward, i went to school a few years ago, and being in the national spotlight a little bit, i wanted to be anonymous as a graduate student. and i have this idea that if you change your hair cut once a decade, and i was just wanting to be less of a profile as a student. >> what would have happened if there was not an internet for the obama campaign?
>> there is no way obama could have one without the internet. the internet allows candidates who really are inspiring on some kind of cause, whether it is ron paul with the libertarian community or obama for a certain set of democrats. if you have got a message that is compelling, you can take passion from a small group of people willing to give the money up front, and turn that into credibility in the offline, non- internet world. so he was wanting to take that on my passion and turn it into offline success. but if you'll the campaign in a way that he would not have gotten as far without the internet. and obama was the first candidate in any party to raise a significant amount of money on line and turned it into
advertisements on tv, the house party, lots and lots of marketing. so you have this markets to let you get a base. obama use that base online to have a broad coalition. without that initial base, you cannot win. >> it sounds like a lot, but it is only 1% of the american people. what do you think about the future candidates? >> how can i mobilize that for
candidate and incrementally get more involved. i think we will see an enhanced capability driven by candidates. i am really excited about the potential for technology to improve education. we spent $60 billion wiring schools, putting computers in schools, and we have very little to show for it overall. and what i have seen in the past years that has changed my thinking about role of technology, there is one called carnegie technology that does a good job of helping students understand algebra and really difficult math in a way that is self-paced, adaptive,
personalized, you understand specific things you have difficulty with, and for me, i think the most powerful force in education is the feel of avoiding humiliation. most students are thinking, how do i not look stupid in front of that girl or boy. and what is powerful about a computer is that if it is self- directed, there is no fear of humiliation in front of your peers. so i'm trying to figure out how can we do more to help get high- quality educational software out to a large audience of people, particularly the poorest members of our society and others that might not have access to high-quality teaching. the charter school i started is
in bedford-stuyvesant, brooklyn, on the edge of a new record called bushwick. it has and what that is wonderful about the community there. we found building that had been taken over, it was just a shell. one of the things i was most proud of it were the educational results. there had been a little rain in the basement serving people, and it had become a vital part of the community. i have only gone and visited. i'm on the board, but i have not taught. none of the kids have laptops
issued by the school. computer classes are like having dental glasses -- pencil class's. you do not go down the hall to use a pencil. we can do three assessments a year and get rapid parading of those so we can see how kids are doing. we have a lot of creative technology where parents can see how students are doing. but we do not to allot with computer-based curriculum. we only go to eight great, so we have not yet graduated to high
school. but all of our kids go on to competitive high schools. >> stuyvesant, stanford, and harvard, who would you give the most credit to? >> i know an incredible debt to my parents. both my parents and grandparents were good about encouraging me to be curious. i often get asked in the context of the internet, what are we teaching kids to use microsoft office? you do not succeed in this economy by knowing a particular kind of software preview succeed by being curious, constantly learning. if i went to a museum with my
mother, she would say, how would you do this differently? even as a six-year old, i was invited to think about how i might create, the role like a play in creating an exhibit. -- the role i could play in creating an exhibit. even as a six-year-old. by grandfather was good about getting me electronic gadgets, practicing my times tables on a toy calculator. but the heart of it was that my parents were always encouraging me to take a real pleasure in learning, and that propels me throughout all of these experiences. i have been really lucky to have incredible teachers. frank, i mentioned. a drama professor, henry louis
gates at harvard, and all the mets played a really significant role in my development. i had a computer teacher in the sixth grade and got to get out of wood shop and into a computer shop, and i feel a debt to him because that was one of the first places where i got to learn to program. but my parents saw love programming, and they did not give me a game machine, they got me a toy computer called a vic 20. you would not use it as a doorstop out. they basically gave me a sandbox to learn to program with. >> facebook, twitter, what is
the most important as we look to the future? >> facebook is far and away the most powerful thing going on right now in social media. it has less buzz than twitter right now, but there are 300 million people using facebook regularly. i am on it. i am a heavy user. what facebook has done which almost of the private sites have not done, what they have figured out was how to offer something day in and day out. it is a little bit like a jim membership, exciting at first, and you taper off. facebook as figaro -- has
figured out how to make it last. >> last question. when will we call your doctor omar wasow? >> i have about a year and a half out. i am looking forward to playing my doctor it -- claiming my doctorate at the end of 2011. thank you for having me. >> for a dvd copy, call the number. for free transcripts or to have a comment about the program, visit us online. programs are also available as a c-span podcasts.
>> a look back at 2009 from the bbc program, the record review. later, a house hearing on the bernie madoff ponzi scheme and ways to protect security investments. >> monday, expanding broadband to rural and underserved areas of the country. an update from the fcc's broadband initiative director on the communicators on c-span 2. >> this week, we're going to show you bbc's "the record review," a look back at major events of 2009. this program discusses military
operations in afghanistan, and the state opening of parliament. >> hello, and welcome. coming up, it is the economy, as britain's debt go up and up. they use public money to declare everything, trying to put the expenses role behind them. and members of the youth parliament show us how it is done. >> now is a time to be hurt, and it's time to hear others. >> one suspect has dominated everything in recent months.